By Jim Duke, Jr.
If getting there is half the fun, getting to and from the range usually isn’t. There’s just so much gear, guns and ammo to carry, it can get pretty unwieldy. I usually use a pistol bag that holds a couple of guns and an Army surplus ammo can, plus my ears, eyes and everything else. It’s been a decent setup for the most part, but at times it can be hard getting all of it to my cramped little lane at the indoor range when I also have targets that I’d like to avoid crumpling. And it only gets worse when my wife goes too for a little he and she shooty fun. I’ve looked at lots of conventional range bags and most are too bulky and difficult to keep organized. But I came across the GPS Handgunner Backpack online and pulled the trigger, so to speak . . .
The average price is somewhere around $119.00. I found mine for $79.00 and ended up shelling out about a hundred bucks total with shipping. That’s a pretty penny for a range bag so I figured this puppy had better be worth it. After a few days of waiting, the big brown truck arrived and, for the most part, the price is warranted.
The overall quality and feel of the backpack are top notch. The fabric is sturdy as are all of the zippers. The internal lining and pockets, while thin, don’t feel as if they’ll be easily torn or snagged. Nothing about the Handgunner Backpack feels cheap.
The feature that made me shell out the bucks for this bag, though, is the foam cradle that holds four handguns. Unzip the lower front compartment and slide the cradle out for easy access to your handguns which are held vertically and protected between dividers.
The cradle’s made of a dense foam that was apparently cut on a CNC machine for precision. The design is flawless and not flimsy at all. In fact, it will hold your guns in your safe just as well without being inside the backpack. The website says it’s designed to hold small to medium sized handguns but my full sized 1911 felt right at home. In fact, I put two full sized 1911s, a subcompact 1911 and am M&P 22 in there with no problems at all. The cradle slides easily into the lower compartment which is protected by a lockable zipper.
The maker talks up the “Visual I.D. System”. Each pocket is designed to hold a specific item and is labeled appropriately. There are pockets for earplugs, shooting glasses, etc. The Visual I.D. System just means that they put a little symbol on the flap to tell you which is which. Whatever, it’s handy enough since there’s a pocket for just about anything you could possibly need at the range. There is even a waterproof rain cover that can be pulled out of the top to guard your gats against a sudden downpour. How cool is that?
For my maiden range trip with the new bag, I loaded her up with everything I could think of, including two 1911′s and an M&P 22 in the cradle. The top most compartment is designated for ear muffs but I use plugs, so I filled it with ammo. I was actually able to fit a surprising amount of ammo in there.
Since I had packed a 9mm, a .45 and a .22, I also brought along 300 rounds for each, figuring that would keep me busy for a while. The compartment was big enough that I actually could have put more in there. I stowed my shooting glasses in their designated pouch then ear plugs, magazines a little bottle of oil and a few other odds and ends. I had everything I could possibly need and still had a few empty pockets.
One really cool thing they added were Velcro straps on the back of the pack to hold rolled up targets. I was especially happy to see these because more, than anything, I hate shooting at a crumpled target (but hey, that’s just me).
My thinking when I ordered the GPS Handgunner was that when the wife and I go the the range together, we can get everything we need in just the one backpack (take a wild guess who gets to carry it) instead of schlepping multiple bags and ammo cans which can make a trip to the range a royal pain in the butt. The Handgunner has more than enough room to accommodate range gear for two shooters. But that’s a lot of gear so how comfortable is it to tote?
When I picked it up, it was a bit heavier than I expected so I plopped it on my wife’s scale. Turns out I’d loaded it up with about 38 pounds. But even with that amount of weight, the backpack remained rigid and free standing. It also kept its shape well when I put it on my back and walked around with it. Even though the pack doesn’t have a frame and isn’t designed for actual backpacking, it’s comfy enough for getting to and from the range fully loaded.
The GPS Handgunner holds everything that I needed — and more — in an extremely organized manner. Not to be too OCD, but it has a place for everything and everything has its place. What more could you want?
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Appearance: * * * * *
The backpack comes in any color you want as long as you want black. It looks great and I especially like the fact that it doesn’t look like a range bag) unless you start looking at the symbols on the pockets). You could walk down the street with this thing on your back and nobody would know that you’re carrying a buttload of guns. It also looks sweet when freestanding because it holds its shape so well.
Reliability/Sturdiness: * * * * *
Nothing about the Hangunner Backpack looks or feels cheap. The stitching appears to be very sturdy as does the fabric. The internal liner, while thin, doesn’t look or feel as if snags or punctures will be much of a problem. I have a feeling that this backpack will be around for a good while.
Value: * * * *
At an average price of $119 plus shipping online, it’s a bit pricey for my tastes even though it’s a great product. I got mine for for about $80 plus shipping and I think that’s about right.
Overall: * * * * *
The GPS Handgunner Backpack is first rate. It looks good, feels good and holds all the stuff I need with room for a bunch of stuff I don’t need. This is hands down the most well thought out and executed range bag I’ve ever seen. The way the pockets are set up and tailor made for specific range items makes keeping things organized easy.